The Alchemic Moment

I recently saw Yo La Tengo play at the Paradise. Truth be told, while I love live music and the Paradise for its intimacy and incredible sound system, I wasn’t feeling it. I went because it was Father’s Day and my husband is a big Yo La Tengo fan and, as my practically-minded son said, “ if you have the ticket you go.” 

I have seen Yo La Tengo before, an acoustic set at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston. This was not likely to be that; the band is known and loved for its wildly creative and experimental sound–feedback driven, sound pedal laden, almost free jazz-like cacophony. There were more than a few shouted requests from the audience to simply, “play something loud!”

While I can’t say that I was really able to get inside of the crazy conversation that was happening between the three person band–I never did get to feeling it–it was an incredible thing to be in the presence of. Chaos unleashed, lead guitarist Ira Kaplan lost in riffs and feedback looping sound, on his knees, crouching over his guitar as if to create a self contained sound world to get lost in. Bass guitar player James McNew and drummer Georgia Hubley at times provide a loose container, at times join the fray, and most extraordinarily eventually guide the chaos into coherence I don’t know how. 

Something happens up there on stage amidst the wattage that is deeply attuned and makes the alchemic moment possible, that turns the seemingly disparate into something integrated and resonant and totally new. I can’t say I understood a lot of it, but it was awe-inspiring to witness and that moment of coherence was delicious. I offer this experience as an invitation–to use whatever ticket you’ve got to go to whatever it is that you may not be feeling, but might just be awesome.

❤️ Jill

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